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A bathroom that lacks natural light can feel stuffy and small. Luckily, there are several ways to get light into a bathroom without windows and make the space feel inviting.
How to Get Natural Light Into a Bathroom Without Windows
Think you’re relegated to bathing in the dark? Think again.
The only way to get natural light into a bathroom without windows is to add a skylight on the ceiling. It will make the room brighter, improve ventilation and potentially increase your home’s resale value. This upgrade — which typically takes up to three days to complete — can make even the smallest, darkest bathroom instantly feel welcoming and luxurious. Your stay-at-home-spa days just got a lot classier.
Semi-Flush Ceiling-Mounted Lights
The next best way to get more light in the bathroom is to use artificial lights. Semi-flush-mounted fixtures are great for bathrooms because they occupy very little space, light up the whole room and can look gorgeous in their own right. Opt for a white or clear shade on the fixture to maximize the amount of light getting through.
Once you’ve chosen an overhead light, you can further brighten up the bathroom by installing sconces next to the vanity. Have fun with it and choose fixtures that are both stylish and practical. As with the other lights, look for clear or seeded glass coverings to let the most light through, since dark or colored glass can make your bathroom dimmer.
A Faux Window
Believe it or not, you can buy LED panels cut and framed to look exactly like frosted windows. Simply hang them on the wall like a picture frame for the instant appearance of a window, light included. They work well overlaid with gauzy curtains to help maintain the illusion. You can find them in painted or unfinished styles.
Which Light Bulbs Should You Choose?
The brightness, color temperature and color rendering index of the lighting can make a bathroom look dramatically different. In a bathroom without natural light, you’ll want to maximize the overall brightness without making it look too harsh.
Light Bulb Type
First, you’ll need to choose between light-emitting diodes (LED) or incandescent lights. There is a third type of light called compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), but they are not recommended for use in the bathroom because turning them on and off shortens their life span.
In general, LEDs are a great choice for lighting bathrooms because they are energy efficient and not prone to overheating. They use up to 90% less energy and can last as much as 25 times longer than incandescent lights.
Color temperature refers to how warm or cool the light looks, not its actual temperature. Bulbs with a lower color temperature look yellow to soft white, while higher-color-temperature bulbs have more of a cool, blue tone. To replicate the look of natural light in the bathroom, look for 4,000- to 5,000-Kelvin bulbs with a high color rendering index (CRI).
Color Rendering Index
The CRI is what makes an object look like its natural color under a light. For a windowless bathroom, look for a CRI of at least 90. A higher CRI means the object looks more true-to-life even under artificial illumination.
This quality is exactly what it sounds like. Brightness is measured in lumens, and more lumens means a brighter light. Aim for 2,000 lumens or more in a bathroom without windows. You can use several bulbs in one overhead fixture to achieve this level of illumination.
You might want to install a dimmer switch on the light fixture so you can adjust the brightness as needed. Daylight-bright bulbs are great for waking up in the morning, but not so much for midnight bathroom breaks. You can buy dimmer switches for any type of bulb.
Other Ways to Brighten Up the Room
In addition to adding more lighting, there are several visual illusions you can use to your advantage to make the bathroom look brighter.
1. A Fresh Coat of Paint
Repainting the walls can go a long way toward making a bathroom feel bigger and more airy. In a windowless bathroom, light colors are your best friend. Opt for neutral or pastel colors like white, mint, powder blue or cream for the walls.
2. Updated Flooring
Keeping with the theme of lighter hues, choose classic neutral tones like white, cream or pale gray for the floor to brighten up the space. Tile and laminate flooring are the easiest to clean in a bathroom.
A favorite trick of designers everywhere is to use mirrors to maximize a room. Mirrors can make the bathroom feel bigger by reflecting a large, uncluttered space on the opposite side of the room. They can also make the space brighter if you use them to strategically reflect the light fixtures. Consider hanging one on the back of the bathroom door to visually elongate the room.
Brightly colored towels, bath mats and bathroom caddies can breathe life into a dull bathroom without windows. Artificial plants are also perfect for windowless rooms because they don’t need sunlight.
Use high floating shelves to create the illusion of more space and paint them a light, airy color. Decorate them with a few wicker baskets, scent diffuser sticks, candles or knickknacks that make the bathroom feel inviting.
5. A Glass Shower Door
A dark, opaque or patterned shower curtain can inadvertently make a bathroom feel smaller and darker. If you have the budget for it, swap out your curtain for a translucent, frameless glass door. It gives the illusion of more space and can brighten up the room. Some shower doors also include a mirror panel, reflecting light and opening the room up even further.
Let There Be Light
A bathroom without windows doesn’t have to be dark. The only way to get natural light into a bathroom without windows is with a skylight. But by switching up the lighting, installing faux windows, using mirrors to your advantage and employing a few other tricks, you can make the space feel bright and welcoming.
Who knows? After a remodel, your windowless bathroom just might become your favorite room in the house!